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A scene from Iraqi short film Dalia.

Top Iraqi films set for global debut

Dubai, March 31, 2012

Ten films from Iraq will debut to the world at the Gulf Film Festival which opens next month in the UAE, offering a rare look inside the country by its people and their hopes, lives and happiness.

In all, the Festival will screen at least 15 films from the strife-torn nation, including two international premieres and two UAE premieres.

The Gulf Film Festival, held under the patronage of  Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), runs from April 10 to 16, 2012 at Dubai Festival City; and from April 12 to 14 at the Abu Dhabi Theatre in the capital.

Taha Karimi’s I Am A White Mercenary is a biography on Saeid Jaf, a mercenary commander of the Iraqi Baath Party standing trial in the new Iraqi court.

Jaf is accused of being part of the Al-Anfal campaign, when more than 180,000 Kurds were killed and many more villages and families were displaced over a three-year long offensive. The film, which aims to present a new perspective of the incidents, is competing in the Festival’s official Gulf competition.

Ja’far Abd al-Hamid’s feature film Mesocafe, also in competition, explores the life of an Iraqi underground blogger who travels to London to campaign against UN sanctions on his country and highlight their consequences on the nation.

Five short films from Iraq are also competing for awards at GFF2012: Director Rezgar Hussein’s Bicycle, on its surface, is a simple story of a poor boy’s aspiration to have a bicycle. At a more sublime level, it is about his craving for freedom, away from his mundane existence of digging through landfills to sell metal. His dream is about to come true when he meets a rich boy who owns a bicycle.

Hadi Mahood’s Cart is an evocative journey through the contemporary history of Iraq. The cart rolls down the rugged pathways of the country- each place it covers has a distinct story to tell the viewers.

The other short films in competition include Shaxawan Abdullah Qazi’s Dalia, a short film about a nation defined by stress and explosions; Hawraz Mohammed’s children’s film Mirror, about a boy and girl who find each other in the future; and Jassim Mohammed Jassim’s What If, a silent film that asks what civilization would be like if there were not symbols, labels and identities to divide people. 

Five films by Iraqi students have been shortlisted for the Festival’s Gulf student competition. Three of them – Khaled Al Bayati’s My Age is 31; Saddam Hashim’s That in My Head and Melak Abd Ali Mnahi’s Cassette are making their world premiere at GFF, Smile Again by Hashim Al Efari its international premiere; and O- by Yaser Hameed makes its UAE premiere.

What goes through the mind of a 31-year-old, if all he hears through his lifetime is about war and killings? That is the question explored by My Age is 31. Highly evocative and touching, the film minces no words when it reminds viewers that death doesn’t close the book – the sadness will continue.

Part surreal, part real, part fantasy, part fiction – that best describes That in My Head. The director takes a leaf out of the turbulent past, transfers it into mental images, generates solutions to address war and strife, and then branches out into a tragic love story that does not have any real inside story.

The film is an example of how young Iraqis are exploring the possibilities offered by film to express their views strongly, albeit rich in metaphors.

Another story that is centred on war in Iraq is Cassette, which explores another side that is seldom examined – the minds of Iraqi soldiers. After charting how the soldiers react to the strife around them, the young filmmaker transfers the pain onto the canvas of a painter, and weaves dreams of a new life.

Smile Again, on the other hand, examines the far-reaching impact a single piece of good news has on different levels of Iraqi society. Also resting its central narrative on hope is O-, where the protagonist is fed on a daily diet of hope – but is it real or a mirage - an existential question that many young Iraqis face today.

The Festival previously announced its in-competition selection of Red Heart, Halkawt Mustafa’s love story that delves into the challenges young women face in contemporary Kurdish society.

Spectacularly shot against the backdrop of the Kurdish mountain ranges, the film follows Shirin, who discovers her widowed father’s plans to trade her in exchange for a new wife. She escapes to the big city with her boyfriend Soran, who is arrested.

Three additional Iraqi feature films – Atia and Mohammed Daradji’s In My Mother’s Arms; Sarmad Al-Zoubidy’s One-Eyed Charlatan – will screen in the Festival’s out of competition Lights programme.

GFF 2012 will be held at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Festival Cinemas at Dubai Festival City.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Dubai | arab | debut | directors | Gulf Film Festival | Iraqi films | emotion |

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